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Khurshid Ahmad

Muslim Activist-Economist

John L. Esposito

John O. Voll

The Islamic resurgence has put Islam in the headlines and drawn a great deal of scholarly as well as media coverage. While one man, the Ayatollah Khomeini, has come to be equated with the resurgence of Islam in the popular mind and imagination, in fact the reassertion of Islam in Muslim life is a broad-based, complex, multifaceted phenomenon that has embraced Muslim societies from Sudan to Sumatra. Its leaders and organizations are as varied as its manifestations.

Contemporary Islamic revivalism has included a greater emphasis on religious identity and values in private and public life. As a result, organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat-i-Islami, that combine both the private and public emphases, best reflect the dynamism and leadership of contemporary Islam. Khurshid Ahmad of Pakistan is among the dominant figures in this select group. An early follower of Mawlana Mawdudi (1903–1979), the founder of the Jamaat-i-Islami, and a trained economist, Khurshid has been a leader of the Jamaat, a member of the cabinet and senate of Pakistan, a father of modern Islamic economics, and an internationally recognized Islamic activist.

The economic dimension of the Islamic resurgence, while not in the headlines as a part of the Islamic revolution, is an important part of contemporary Islam. Islamic economics involves both conceptual developments and active concrete programs. During the past decade Islamic economic institutions (banks, finance houses, insurance) and taxes have been introduced in many countries. As in other areas of the resurgence, the interrelated emphasis on theory and practice has required leaders who are both theorists and activists. Khurshid Ahmad has been one of the leading figures in the emergence of Islamic economics as an intellectual discipline and as a foundation for new institutions and programs. He has combined an active commitment and participation in one of the major Islamic movements of the modern era with a career as an economist, working both in academia and with governments and financial institutions in developing economic theory and practice within an Islamic framework.

Khurshid Ahmad reflects in his life and thought the basic themes and dynamics of the emergence of contemporary Islamic economics. It is important, then, to know his basic biography, since he is an activist as well as a theorist and his life is as important as his thought in reflecting the nature of Islamic economics. It is equally important to situate Khurshid Ahmad within the context of the Jamaat-i-Islami, a movement that has shaped his life and thought and thus informed his understanding and formulation of Islamic economics. This essay will examine Khurshid Ahmad's life, the Jammat-i-Islami and his connections with it, and the fundamental ideas of Islamic economics as he sees them.

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